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Though it may fly in the face of common logic, very few objects

only American watchmakers in a changing landscape. “We’re really

are more naturally crafted to embody the spirit of an anniversary

the only company in the U.S. that is actually manufacturing high-

than a guitar. In ways often disregarded or forgotte n , the shape

grade mechanical watch movements anymore,” Murphy explains.

and construction of a guitar are an unusually fitting representation

“We put a lot of work into the design of the mechanisms and the

of both harmony and time, with the theory behind a guitar holding

hand-finishing of the movements. We also make the dial of the

mu c h more knowle dge th an i mme di ate l y co m e s t o m ind . The

watch, which is hand cu t w i t h e n gine turning, known in French

gu i tar ’ s m o s t i m p o r t a n t p re d e c e s s o r wa s p ro b a b l y t h e l y re,

as guilloché.” The lost art of guilloché i s o ne of the hallmarks

especially the seven - stri n ge d l y re of th e an c i e nt G re e k s. The

of M ur p hy ’s cra f t, a nd it p lays heavily i nto the two millionth

philosophers of that e ra tel l u s th at each of the strings of the

guitar’s design. He explains it thus: “The process includes cutting

lyre was meant to represent either the sun or the moon or one of

geometric patterns into the dial, which most companies mimic by

the five wandering planets visible to the human eye. Along with

stamping. Ours are cut line by line. It creates sharper peaks and

the teachings on music attributed to Orpheus, there was a long

valleys, so it reflects light in a more beautiful way.” The project

tradition bolstered by the geometer Pythagoras insisting that a

presented a series of e n g i n e e r i n g c h a l l enges, with Martin and

music or a harmony existed between the heavenly spheres by merit

RGM working together to find solutions that would elevate rather

of their relationships to one another, and the strings of the lyre

than minimize their unique set of skills. “We needed to make a

were tangible representatives of that higher order. The shape of

watch for the two millionth guitar that would fit into the headstock

the week was also included in this far-reaching philosophy, which

while integrating into the guitar in a way in which the guitar and

is why the seven days of th e we e k are named for the Sun (i.e.,

the watch b ot h wo r ke d we ll and b e lo nged together. We had to

Sunday), the Moon (i.e., Monday), and the planets before returning

build a housing for the watch in order to save space. Two of the

to Sunday—not unlike the Do-Re-Mi scale of the solfège or octave

guitar tuners are integrated into the watch case itself, and the

in which a note asce n ds th e mu s i cal scale to ar r ive ba ck at a

other four tuners—which we helped make—are separate. There

higher, brighter form of Do. Certain moral and philosophical beliefs

were challenges there and things we had never done before, but

were base d up on re co gn i ti o n of th i s patte rn , though the most

that was a challenge we were able to conquer nicely.” Martin’s

pertinent takeaway here is that craftspeople of all ages have always

Ti m Te e l explains, “Our technical ch a l l enge was to figure o ut

worked to inject their finest creations with the beauty and order

how to incorporate a tuning gear design into the mounting piece

embodied by the mysteries and marvels found while observing the

that wo u ld h o l d t h e c l o ck while also giving us something that

blossoming, regenerative world. The seven vowels of the ancient

would look good and function well. Working with RGM was a great

tongue were also attributed to these celestial bodies, and the idea

experience. I personally l ea r n e d a l ot, and I think it was a fun

was popular and all-pervading enough within the popular culture

project for them too, because I don’t think it was something that’s

that archaeologists have occasionally recovered ancient jewelry in

ever been done before. When we got into brainstorming sessions,

which the seven vowels are placed along a series of gilded ladder

everyone was able to contribute in their unique ways.” But the

steps—and the musical scale, naturally, takes its inspiration from

design elements went well beyond the headstock. “We wanted to

the ladder (Latin scala, meaning “ladder” or “flight of stairs”).

work on the styling so it would blend in and look appropriate,” says

The duties for crafting many of the timepiece and design elements

Murphy, “so we also worked on the guilloché, or engine-turned,

fell on the shoulders of the venerable Roland Murphy, whose RGM

soundhole ring as well as other engine-turned plates. We’ve had a

Watches is based in Lancaster, Pa. To put Murphy’s pedigree into

pretty big role in working with Martin on this, and everyone at RGM

perspective, watch aficionado Michael Clerizo, writing for the Wall

has been really enthusiastic about the project. Martin’s certainly

Street Journal, has called Murphy “America’s preeminent master

an old company that makes beautiful things, just like we like to

watchmaker.” Educate d at th e n ow- defunct Bowman Technical

make beautiful things. We’ve been working on this for a couple

School that was in Lancaster, Pa., Murphy also studied at WOSTEP

of years now, and it’s a great project because it’s about making

in Neuchâtel, Switzerland, in the mid-eighties before working for a

something special more than about anything else. It’s about trying

Swiss company in America.

to create something that will wow people. I think this project will get

In 1992, he founded RGM, and he is noted for being one of the

everyone’s attention.”

M A R T I N G U I TA R . C O M |


MARTIN | The Journal of Acoustic Guitars: Volume 7  
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